NO INDEPENDENCE CELEBRATION TILL 2014 - JONATHAN
In what appears to be a direct response to the criticism from the opposition parties and other Nigerians, over the low-keyed celebration at the State House, Abuja, instead of the traditional Eagle Square, President Goodluck Jonathan has announced that the situation will not be different until 2014.
While the Federal Government considered the celebration of the nation's Independence Day inside Aso Rock as a cost-saving measure, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and other political leaders insisted it was a serious error of judgment.
They had linked the cancellation of the traditional parade and shifting of activities marking the nation's 51st Independence anniversary from the Eagle Square to the relatively-secure Presidential Villa to threats posed by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) and fundamentalist Islamic sect, Boko Haram.
But Presidnet Jonathan who just ended a two-day working visit to Kigali, the Rwandan capital, said the 2014 celebration would be merged with centenary celebration not only because of the uniqueness of the year but would also be the last one before the expiration of his tenure in May 2015.
While fielding questions from journalists from both countries at a joint press conference at the Urugwiro Village, Rwandan Presidential Villa, Jonathan decried the antics of politicians who seemed to enjoy criticising every action of government no matter how genuine and reiterated to Nigerians that the action was in the best interest of the country - to save cost.
He said neither MEND nor any group could have cowed the government to take that decision as it was long concluded even before the independence anniversary.
The president also assured that Nigeria was indeed a safe haven for investors having witnessed the visits of important dignitaries like Bill Gates who walked around freely without fear. 'It's good that you ask this question because I read some stories in the media and Nigeria is a big country; we have over 60 political parties though some were deregistered after the elections. And in a political dispensation when you are playing party politics anything done by the ruling party is always politicised. If you go to the left people will ask, why did you go to the left and if you go to the right, people will ask, why did you go to the right; if you stay at the center they will still question you. That is what happened so things are always distorted.
'Only upper Tuesday I received Bill Gates, if not the richest one of the richest people in the world in Nigeria. So if Bill Gates could come to Nigeria and move freely that tells you Nigeria is safe. It's a very wrong notion that is being painted that we celebrated our independence anniversary in the State House. We did not celebrate in the State House, we had a low key celebration. And no country, you are journalists, you can tell me, no country that celebrates their national day every year. Even an individual from the age of 40 and above if you celebrate your birthday every year nobody comes again, nobody values it.
'What happened was that Nigeria was 50 last year October 1 because for you to celebrate your national day, you must invite your colleagues heads of state and governments. If you are not doing that then you are celebrating in low key which is what we did. Last year's celebration was huge and so many heads of state all over the world attended, very senior dignitaries. Then May 29 this year was my inauguration, we invited all heads of state and governments again and if you look at photographs it's almost like an AU meeting. Most African heads of state were there and then October 1 this year you want to call them again? It will not be fair.
'Even in the history of Nigeria, there is no time that any president celebrated the national day every year. Just like your own birthday you take flash points maybe 40, 45, 50, you begin to give gaps of about five years interval to make it more meaningful. So we decided not to celebrate this year 2011; that decision was taken long ago.
'I think the confusion is that towards the independence anniversary, an individual or group of individuals from a militia organisation called MEND, an organisation based in the Niger Delta, incidentally the region I come from and we know with the Amnesty Programme, the challenge in Niger Delta has almost been taken care of, so it's either one individual using the name of MEND to issue a threat that nobody should go to Eagle Square for celebration whereas we had taken the decision long ago before the independence anniversary not to celebrate to conserve funds.'